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Parasomnia (sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep sex)

What is parasomnia?

  • Parasomnia is a abnormal behaviour during sleep.
  • This behaviour occurs without the patient being aware.
  • This can occur in many forms such as sleep talking and sleep walking.
  • During these episodes the patient may be talking in bed which is harmless. More seriously, they may be found in a place not known to them or they may walk in to a dangerous situation like walking off a balcony.

What are the symptoms of parasomnia?

  • Symptoms vary depending on what the parasomnia is.
  • If it is sleep walking, people may walk around the house not knowing they are doing it.
  • If it’s sleep eating they may eat inedible material like soap or mix ingredients like chicken and jam that are not normally consumed together.
  • Some bewildered parasomnia patients find open wrappers in the morning and wonder how this happened as they are unaware of their actions.

What is the treatments for parasomnia?

Treatment depends on the type and severity.

  • The main aim is to find out if there is a precipitating internal or external factor that causes parasomnia.
  • Alcohol, which is a known external factor, sleeping tablets starting with Z known as “Z dragons” like Zolpidem and Zopclone are known drugs that cause parasomnia.
  • Disruptive sleep due to sleep apnoea can cause parasomnias as well.
  • Educating patients and making the night environment safe for the patient is the next important issue to address
  • Drugs can be used to stabilise the sleep that may reduce parasomnias
  • A sleep physician with expertise in this area needs to be involved in the treatment for this disease.